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Thread: Old laptop; trying to install linux

  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Apr 2005

    Old laptop; trying to install linux

    I'm trying to install linux (pretty much any flavor I can get to work that'll run smooth for this situation) to a laptop I recently got, but everything I try still doesn't actually allow it to be installed. I'm thinking it must be boot options, but I'm not sure what they all mean. I've gotten errors like: "buffer i o error on device sr0" so I burned a new disk and verified it to make sure it was ok (I assumed it was a bad disk). The laptop is a pentium 400 Mhz (approx, can't remember exactly) and has 32mb ram. Obviously no graphical install will work, as well as installing something like kde or gnome. I tried the Ubuntu alternate disk, which i read can be used for old computers, as it doesn't use the graphical install, and allows you to install without Xorg. The disk seems to work, but after I get passed the point where it asks me info like what keyboard I'm using (US) it just hangs. The screen turns black, then the ubuntu brown, then back and forth. Are there any good boot parameters for a system like this (or what else can be done)? Also, I would like to have some sort of window system after the install. I was thinking Xfce, and if it can't handle it, fluxbox. Does anyone have any recommendations for me?

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    I'd recommend that you give Ubuntu Server a try... let it install and see where you end up

    As for a GUI, you should definitely be able to get something up and running I used to run GUIs on my Pentium 75 w/ 24MB RAM... mind you those were older and designed to be crap

    xfce is probably a good bet once you get the os installed.. just apt-get install xfce and you'll most likely be good to go.
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  3. #3
    You could try Damn Small Linux (although I've never used it), your computer has more than enough power to run it.

  4. #4
    Gonzo District BOFH westin's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    SW MO
    I believe xUbuntu is designed for older systems.

    Might be worth a shot.
    \"Those of us that had been up all night were in no mood for coffee and donuts, we wanted strong drink.\"


  5. #5
    Member KPryor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Xubuntu and DSL both work great on old machines, but I think Xubuntu would maybe be a little too much for yours. DSL should work ok.

  6. #6
    Just a shot in the dark

    Try this as a boot option:


    I bet $20 this is the solution you seek.
    Last edited by Linen0ise; March 4th, 2009 at 07:07 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Apr 2005
    I've tried all-generic-ide, and i've even tried cli with no success (same flashing hang). The strange thing is that I've been able to boot into Backtrack 3 with fluxbox, and dsl. Backtrack 3 was obviously slow, but I think an install would improve speed. Eventually, I hope to run a parallel system (purely for the learning experience, as they're only, as I said, about 400 Mhz), as I've been given a bunch of these laptops. I'm not sure how difficult that would be, as they only have RJ11 instead of the RJ45, but I think network boot floppies may help with that. Anyways, my question is, would dsl be able to work with a parallel environment? As that is the only installable os i seem to be able to run at this point, unless anyone has any other ideas for getting ubuntu or xubuntu (which I've tried) to work.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by metguru View Post
    I've tried all-generic-ide, and i've even tried cli with no success (same flashing hang). The strange thing is that I've been able to boot into Backtrack 3 with fluxbox, and dsl.
    how about 'linux all-generic-ide' ?

    or if you want to show the laptop whose boss. GOTO

    there you can find every linux copy on the face of the Earth. Look for a distribution that allows network installs. Opensuse comes to mind. You might need a floppy or usb thumb drive for this. search for *network*.iso and witness the glory. The star represent wildcard searching. A proper network boot disk will give you options on howto connect to the outside and save the changes to the actuall installation when completed.

    what is the model of the laptop?
    Last edited by Linen0ise; March 5th, 2009 at 01:06 AM.

  9. #9
    If you have to install a wireless card.....find out the driver that windows uses and throw that in a directory on your new disk. Linux can somehow convert a windows network driver. $$$

  10. #10
    Senior Member nihil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    United Kingdom: Bridlington
    Hi metguru,

    1. What was running on the machine when you got it?
    2. How big is the hard drive? and the largest free partition?

    I would suggest that your main problem is the very small amount of RAM. Using the alternate CDs, regular Ubuntu requires 256Mb and Xubuntu 64Mb. They want 4Gb and 1.5Gb of disk space respectively.

    DSL will work, although you will probably have difficulty with a lot of today's applications like browsers and office suites. It will run on a DX486 with 16Mb of RAM. Puppy Linux is another distro that will run on 486 platforms so might be worth a try?

    as I've been given a bunch of these laptops.
    Take the RAM out of some of the others? assuming there are spare memory slots.

    I would also be inclined to run a utility like DBAN to overwrite the whole drive with zeros before installing the OS.

    Good luck!


    Another approach would be to get an adapter for laptop PATA drives, slave them to a more powerful desktop and do the installation there.
    Last edited by nihil; March 6th, 2009 at 11:16 AM.

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